Tag: Environment

Can coastal wetlands survive sea level rise?

New USGS study IDs path for wetlands migration

Coastal mangrove forests are important ecosystems, but face the threat of sea level rise. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Ecologically critical tidal wetlands along the U.S. Gulf Coast are being swallowed up by rising sea level and coastal development, but they expand inland if planners consider climate change in their equations.

“Tidal saline wetlands along the northern Gulf of Mexico are abundant, diverse, and vulnerable to sea-level rise,” said Nicholas Enwright, USGS researcher and lead author of the study. “Our findings provide a foundation for land managers to better ensure there is space for future wetland migration in response to sea-level rise.”

Tidal saline wetlands include mangrove forests, salt marshes, and salt flats, which all provide important wildlife habitat and help buffer the impacts of extreme weather. Without areas for these wetlands to move to, people and wildlife will lose the beneficial functions they provide. Continue reading “Can coastal wetlands survive sea level rise?”

Public support for fracking drops in UK

fracking 3‘The government will increasingly have its work cut out selling fracking to the UK public’

Staff Report

Support for fracking is at an all-time low in the UK, with nearly half the respondents in an annual poll expressing concerns about water quality.

The September 2016 survey found that there has been a significant drop in the level of support for shale gas extraction in the UK over the last 12 months, with levels of support now standing at just 37.3 percent whereas opposition to fracking in the UK now stands at 41 percent.

The University of Nottingham ‘Survey of Public Attitudes to Shale Gas Extraction in the UK’ has been running since March 2012. The survey has tracked changes in awareness of shale gas, and what the UK public believes to be the environmental impacts of its extraction and use, as well as its acceptability as an energy source. Continue reading “Public support for fracking drops in UK”

Paris climate deal hits threshold to take effect

Can the world live up to the Paris climate agreement? @bberwyn photo.

Now the real work begins

By Bob Berwyn

The Paris climate agreement has reached the milestones needed to take effect, as 70 countries, representing almost 57 percent of global emissions, have formally signed on to the deal. According to the United Nations, Canada, the European and Nepal deposited their instruments of ratification with the global body Wednesday, Oct. 6. The agreement, aimed at limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level, will become effective Nov. 4.

In a prepared statement, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, “Global momentum for the Paris Agreement to enter into force in 2016 has been remarkable. What once seemed unthinkable is now unstoppable. ”

Under the agreement, more than 190 countries agreed late last year to try and decarbonize the world’s energy systems by the middle of the century to end the buildup of heat-trapping pollution that has already raised the world’s average temperature by about 1 degree Celsius since 1850. In the past few months, the global temperature has spiked near the 1.5 degree threshold. Climate scientists agree that capping the rise at 2 degrees is critical to avoiding catastrophic climate change impacts like deadly droughts and heatwaves, floods and other extreme weather events.

The treaty also requires richer countries to set up a mitigation fund to help developing countries adapt to impacts. All countries party to the deal must submit individual plans and update them on a regular basis.

Commenting on the news from the Rose Garden, President Barack Obama said that, if the world follows through on the deal’s terms, “history may well judge it as a turning point for our planet.” More from the White House here.

Making it real will require a massive transformation of the world’s economy, and despite the good intentions, there are not many strong signs that will actually happen soon enough. Some recent studies have also warned that the planet is just 15 years away from hitting the 1.5 degree threshold, and that without immediate and massive greenhouse gas cuts, the 2-degree Celsius mark will be passed as early as 2050.

Understanding the urgency, the world community may try to ramp up climate action as soon as the COP22 climate conference in Marrakesh in November.

Antarctic sea ice peaks near record-low extent

Australian scientists document early start to melt season

Yes, there is still lots of ice in Antarctica, but it's melting faster than ever. bberwyn photo.
Yes, there is still lots of ice in Antarctica, but it’s melting faster than ever. bberwyn photo.
Antarctic sea ice extent was near a record low in late September and early October. Via NSIDC.

Staff Report

Australian scientists say Antarctic sea ice started its annual spring retreat early this year and has set new daily record lows for extent during late September — during the Austral spring, when Antarctic sea ice is at a maximum.

In a press release, the Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre said the sea ice extent started its annual retreat early, just two years after  winter sea ice extent around Antarctica reached a new record high in September 2014, when it exceeded 20 million square kilometres for the first time since satellite measurements began in 1979.

This year, Antarctic sea ice began its annual spring retreat about four weeks earlier than average, after peaking at 18.5 million square kilometres on 28 August 2016, which was close to the lowest winter maximum on record.

Continue reading “Antarctic sea ice peaks near record-low extent”

New federal study outlines impacts of seismic air gun blasting in Gulf of Mexico

Oil and gas exploration would have widespread effects on marine mammals

Seismic blasting is bad for marine mammals in the Gulf of Mexico. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Conservation advocates have long been saying that blasting the Gulf of Mexico with seismic airguns to find more oil and gas beneath the seafloor would result in unacceptable harm to marine mammals and other marine life, and a new draft environmental study by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management seems to confirm those concerns.

The study was completed under the terms of a court-ordered settlement of a lawsuit brought by environmental groups. It shows that the blasting would have widespread impacts on marine life, including injuries to endangered sperm whales and Bryde’s whales. The draft report outlines possible mitigation measures, including closure areas where seismic blasting would be banned, and reductions in the amount of activity permissible each year. Continue reading “New federal study outlines impacts of seismic air gun blasting in Gulf of Mexico”

Report offers cold, hard truth about global warming

Scientists say Paris deal is not nearly enough to curb harmful global warming

The average global temperature has spiked to dramatic new highs in the past few months.

By Bob Berwyn

The Paris climate agreement will likely be triggered into force within the next few weeks, which marks the beginning — not the end — of an intense effort to try and cap global warming before the planet is overwhelmed by heatwaves, droughts and super storms.

Governments and citizens need to rapidly ramp up efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, a group of scientists said this week, releasing a new report showing that the climate pledges made toward the Paris agreement won’t do the trick. Continue reading “Report offers cold, hard truth about global warming”

Endangered and invasive species meet in the desert Southwest

willow flycatcher
A southwestern willow flycatcher. Photo courtesy USGS.

New data to help inform tamarisk eradication and bird conservation efforts

Staff Report

New mapping by the U.S. Geological Survey may help resource managers in the southwestern U.S. figure out how they can bolster populations of the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher while at the same time trying to control an unwanted invasive plant that provides habitat for the tiny songbird.

The new report from the USGS provides detailed habitat information on the entire range of of the flycatcher, which breeds in lush, dense vegetation along rivers and streams from May through September. In 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated 1,975 stream kilometers as critical flycatcher habitat, located in six states and 38 counties.

“The satellite model provides us with new capabilities to locate and monitor potential flycatcher habitat within individual watersheds and across its entire range” said James Hatten, Research Biogeographer with the USGS and the report’s author. “The satellite model also revealed how the quantity of flycatcher habitat is affected annually by drought conditions, with habitat declining in California from 2013 to 2015, while increasing in New Mexico and Texas.” Continue reading “Endangered and invasive species meet in the desert Southwest”